The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

All Issues
FEB 2023 Issue

three from Now, Here, This: Half-Sonnets

for Terence Winch & Ivan Sokolov

Turning my toes to the future. This line is your line. Sitting to write before I pull my pants
on. That point where the toes curl. Cardboard containers specifically designed to hold
collections of magazines. The Q-tip and the barbell must somehow be related.

Fetters. A robin fluttering at the glass. Sun glistens off the aluminum ladder against the
back corner of that house. Pianist with a tremor. Calligrapher. The past slips out of your
grasp, alas. That new med brings out her paranoia. Seeing which trees fail to bloom this
year. My grandfather at my age, embarrassed at dying.

In the pines, in the pines where the line never rhymes. Secondary characters having
dark back stories at the last moment. Fitful sleep, wake to fog. Milking giraffes for
skittles. Her son had become opaque to her. “red path of travel” I read as “red gravel
path.” No one called Lee Oswald by his middle name. Tripping over the open
dishwasher door. Waking slowly I spoon into the weight and warmth of your body but
when I open my eyes you’ve gone, the bed is empty. Little Miss Diagnosis.

Down being up here. I can barely remember my grandmother’s sisters let alone the
men. Tooty swore he stopped following baseball the day it integrated. The fire burned
down to the northside business district. What infuriated her was that he got the family
bible “who couldn’t follow one of those commandments.” He liked to sit in the basement
where it was cool in the afternoon. That was before I got busted for robbing a bank.

Foglight, froglight. Weight of the glasses on my face. True-crime mini-doc. I’m not in
Ohio. It’s just past dawn and I’m sitting, looking out the window at the abandoned house
across the street. Redtail on a bare branch high up. Yesterday somebody finally came to
rescue what remained of the koi. Book on the table by the front door. Lawn edger by the
entrance to the garage.

The one part of the word PROPERTY from the silly YMCA t-shirt that showed through
the v-neck of his long-sleeved red pullover was ROPER. The French translations of
Faulkner simply ignored the markers of race in his dialogue. He was aware of how her
eyes bore into him, how intently they examined his face as he thrust into her, her legs
over his shoulders, the late afternoon sun gradually pulling light from the room. Stain of
coffee at the bottom of the cup.

Who’s coming home at seven in the morning. Point at which, late in the Spring, trees
take on that layered canopy look. Dog next door barking his way around the yard. Faux
forest, long past its Use By date.

I’m told the Hotsy-Totsy Club carries on, across San Pablo Avenue from the Albany
Bowl, which does not after a 70-year run. I can recall being inside every woman I ever
fucked. The old police station was tiny and later became a bank. The old Exton Bowl
was torn down, though they left the giant statue of a pin by the side of the road for a few
years. Neither of my parents practiced monogamy and, when I was a toddler, my father
didn’t care if I watched. Across from the theater which has become a giant white Toyota

Pain as porn & vice versa. Burnt Madelines. My mother never carried me up to bed
because our kind only lived in one-story buildings. The coroner two houses down loved
to discuss his work. You can unlearn to dream. The man I saw was embarrassed to be
there. A street full of small houses without a single lawn in sight.

My grandfather at 70, shocked at how much the world has changed. Stopped in the
parking lot by multiple police cars, Phil Lipanovich turned his gun on himself. Across the
street from where Joe Eggenberger, the mayor’s son, offered Judy Williamson a ride,
after which she never was seen alive again. The judge let Ray Nora escape prison by
joining the marines, sending him to his death in Vietnam.

In the dark, a cutting board looks a lot like a book. In between the hummus and the
yogurts, the urologist calls to order a biopsy. A small electronic train that runs near the
ceiling. One bag just for the bananas.

You are lying on your back atop the dining room table surrounded by your friends who
begin drumming upon it softly, then louder, then faster, then louder and faster still. Today
the murdered journalist is in Israel. A perfect light sky. Which of these sentences were in
my head? One of the children is talking in his sleep. I stare at the perfect symmetry of
your labia, then lean forward to apply my tongue.

I awake with the tablet still in my hand. Dear Jess, hello. The rabbit on the patio beside
the small sparrow. A trio of rectangles that includes a painted photograph, a circus
alphabet, and a quilt of 36 squares, each composed of two triangles joined on the
diagonal. To have arrived in Lenapehoking from the land of the Miwoc and

I rise before five to wash out my eyes. A transformer at the substation explodes. In the
dream I never wonder if I am not I. We can hear two helicopters, entirely
distinct. Nobody else is yet awake. The surface of the eye like that of the moon. The
angles and furrows of the hill direct water downward to Daylesford Lake, which is not a
lake at all but a filled-in quarry. His defense to the charge of locking the woman in the
cage was that it was necessary. The fog mingles with the canopy. Traffic in both
directions was blocked for hours.

Jack and Jill
went up the hill
to fetch a pail of slaughter. Went up to the Hudson River, tore up a photograph of her
father and threw it in. Each sentence exists within time, and this can be examined. A
poet I barely know and haven’t seen in twenty years dominates tonight’s dream, with
just a hint that things could get sexual. Literary fiction conceived as a minor category.
The high hat foretells closure. Corneal abrasion, the old razor in the eyeball. But the
impossible physics of the bullet cannot be unseen.

Like a version. Poly moly. Moholy-Nagy. The E (not an E) is silent. Reverse the river. A
hacker on Wacker. The Ear Wax cafe. Honeyboy. Open Laszlo. Mammeries are made
of this. A squirrel on the rooftop wonders how to get down. There’s more art deco in

Name that sangha. I’ve still got all of Eddy’s guns, so I’m not scared. Can’t fish versus
catfish. The mewing in the rafters was bats. Pears sliced thin and warm atop the beets.
To the left of the R in Radnor. World War IV.

Full moon setting. The long couch. The tale attached to the small Tibetan face hanging
over the window may or may not be apocryphal. Books along either wall. An ottoman for
a different chair. Curtains that serve no purpose at all. My alleged signature.

Salary stalks, capital walks. Fox in the garden. Parging hardens into a wall. Well, the
water must go somewhere. In fact, the maps suggest that forest fire is the greater
threat. You bet.

My becoming visibly a teenage boy is what triggers my grandmother into chasing me
with a butcher knife about the kitchen, me dancing and skipping ahead of my assailant,
aware of the danger but trying not to laugh, not connecting any of this to the tales of
rape and incest I had not yet heard even clues about, why only one of her four surviving
brothers was ever invited into our home and I won’t put two and two together until 35
years after her passing when I am nearly a decade older than she was in 1964.

When you butt-called, I answered but you appeared not to hear me, you seemed to
be talking to a pet or an infant and suddenly I felt that by answering my phone I had
invaded your privacy so I hung up. How little light a waning moon can give. The verb to
give absent intent. The word crotch as in this last remaining oak. Make a fist as if for the
first time. Put fingers in mouth to gather information.


Ron Silliman

Ron Silliman's latest publications are a co-edited collected poems of David Melnick, entitled Nice, to appear in 2023 from Nightboat and in the Russian anthology whose title translates into From Black Mountain to Language Writing: The Newest Poetries from the United States. Ivan Sokalov has recently translated You into Russian as well. Silliman lives in Pennsylvania but may be moving to Delaware. He teaches at Penn.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

All Issues